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Nebraska...Our Towns

Nebraska...Our Towns

Pleasant Dale -- Seward County

Given the name "Pleasant Dale" by Gen. Culver in 1871, the town was on the Steam Wagon Road before the railroad was built in 1879. Clearing the tracks after a snow storm took days. [SCHS]
The hills were cut down using horses, mules, and lots of manpower. The railroad relocated 21 miles of its track in 1906-07, and in 1921 the "O" Street was extended to Sunny Side Hill.

Described as "the most correctly-named town in the county," Pleasant Dale is nestled in a valley along Middle Creek in what is, indeed, a pleasant niche in God's world. A post office was established on Danker Hill, about a mile up the valley from the present site along the famed "Steam Wagon Road," in 1871. Postmaster James Iler, one of the first settlers in "I" Precinct and an "evangelical spiritualist," wanted to name it "Spiritdale." Thought to be "a bit-much" by local people, J.H.Culver, prominent Civil War figure living in Milford, is credited with coining the name.

After missing a chance to get a railroad in 1873, the people supported the bonds proposed by the Atchison & Nebraska Railroad in 1879. Construction was completed through Pleasant Dale that September, but did not get to Columbus until May 1880. By then the A&N had been absorbed by another subsidiary operating under the CB&Q, which became Burlington Northern in 1970.

The first depot was built on Thomas Best's farm. This whole stretch of track, however, was difficult to maintain because it was too near the creekbed and often flooded. A bad derailment at Pleasant Dale in 1897 contributed to the decision to relocate 21 miles of track from one-half to a mile south of the original line in 1906-07. This moved the rails from the north side of the town to the south side, necessitating the moving of the depot and elevators.

A school district, comprising 20 sections of land, organized in 1870. It divided into smaller units in 1888. A two-story schoolhouse was built in Pleasant Dale in 1890, with a large, brick high school built in 1915. The district merged with Milford in 1959. A K-8 building was completed in 1976 at which time the old schoolhouse was made into apartments.

Pleasant Dale had a "gold rush" in the 1890s. John Dillenbeck, who filed the last homestead in the county southeast of Pleasant Dale, ran into a "strange strata of dirt" while digging into the hillside for a bank-barn. Melting some of it over a hot fire, it produced a small riverlet of silver and gold. The assays, described as "iron coated flour-gold," were encouraging, so he attempted to mine it. While engineers tried to devise an economical method to extract the ore, train-loads of sightseers descended on the farm. While "considerable gold" was found, the project was finally abandoned.

A landmark of this area is the round barn just north of Pleasant Dale. Built prior to 1920, it has a silo in the middle and two-story outer walls. The old gambrel roof collapsed in 1967, but its tile shell remains intact.

In 1921, when automobiles became popular, the DLD (Detroit, Lincoln & Denver, Highway 6) was graded from Emerald to Milford. Mired in mud when it rained, the road was paved with concrete and bricks in 1931 by a crew of men working out of Pleasant Dale. Also known as the "O Street Road, it was resurfaced with asphalt in 1952-53. I-80, one-half mile to the north, was open from Omaha to Pleasant Dale in 1962, with the next section completed in 1965. Highway 103, south from I-80 to Crete and given state highway status in 1973, has been paved.

Two tornados in 1957, one right after the other, destroyed a number of farmsteads near Pleasant Dale. Early warnings prevented the loss of lives, but many landmarks were destroyed.

The Twin Lakes project, in the Salt Valley Watershed, was built in 1965. Located just over 2 miles north of Pleasant Dale, it includes 1,222 acres of land. In 1972 area 7-8 grade students planted 40 thousand trees as a living memorial to Sen. Stanley Matzke, for his years of service to Nebraska. The project provides flood protection and includes an extensive wildlife habitat, and a primitive recreation area, which is enjoyed by young and old alike.

Hopes for a huge residential surge that would envelope Pleasant Dale in the 1970s as a result of industrial development west of Lincoln and in Seward failed to materialize, when the "energy crisis" resulting in a sharp increase in the cost of gasoline. As a result, the town is still one of the state's best-kept secrets, and provides its 259 residents with a pleasant home.

The town's centennial, celebrated in 1982 and enjoyed by thousands, chose the theme: "BY GOD'S HANDS, BOUNTIFUL BLESSINGS FOR A PRODUCTIVE FUTURE."

By Jane Graff, from material submitted by Harold Busboom, Pleasant Dale, NE 68423.

 

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Pleasant Dale's Centennial History Book , 1982, with stories of ethnic traditions, schools, and churches as well as many family histories; On A Bend of the River , 1967, Graff; and other Seward County histories.